58 Days Away

58 Days Away

Let me just say, I truly didn’t think I would last this long! 58 days away from home. That may not seem like a lot to some, but for me… someone who went to college an hour and a half away from my hometown, an only child and an only grandchild of a small family, and someone who was never really shipped-off to summer camp … 58 days away is crazy and quite an accomplishment! It baffles me that I spent an entire month in Australia, two whole weeks in Hawaii, and I’m rounding-out my second island on an 18-day adventure in New Zealand. It’s still so surreal, especially since I spent the last 11 years in little ol’ Waco, Texas. But, that’s what this past seven months has been about … expanding my horizons, challenging my norms, and stepping outside of my comfort zone.

My comfort zone. I’ve struggled with that phrase on this particular trip, especially in terms of my photography. Many of my photos are of beautiful landscapes. I’ve been lucky enough to traverse stunning islands and gorgeous parts of this planet, and it’s hard not to photograph things that move you to tears. But I sometimes get discouraged thinking, I’m not trying hard enough or I’m not branching out or stepping outside of my comfort zone with my photography … and then I remember, 58 days away. I did 36 on the road by myself across America. I flew to Scotland after quitting my job, packing up my apartment, and leaving my comfortable lifestyle (and salary) behind. So maybe the end of my comfort zone isn’t necessarily about photographing homeless people in the back alleys of Auckland … maybe for me, right now, it’s about pushing forward each day and living in the moment of this adventure. Of making it to day 67 and not coming home at day 35. Continuing on with a smile on my face as a white, American, 38-year-old female, exploring the world alone – hiking through cities, renting cars in different countries, driving on the left for thousands of kilometers, finding a new place to sleep and eat every one of those 58 days, and putting myself out there 8,000 miles away.

So, maybe this is more of a note of encouragement to myself … and a quick check in with my blog after 4 weeks … to say, keep going, you’re doing it! The great state of Texas, delicious mouthwatering Mexican food, and your adorable fuzzy pups are waiting for you whenever you’re ready. But for now … finish strong and keep going. Do it for those who can’t.

Solo Road Trip across America

Solo Road Trip across America

12,575 miles, 53 days, 31 states, and 1 little Subaru — what a great way to see and celebrate Fall in America! Last week, I made it back home to Austin, Texas, after spending the better parts of September and October on the road by myself. I loved the adventure—the open road, the changing of the seasons, the new sights, and the freedom to go wherever I wanted. It was everything I had hoped for and often dreamed of!

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My solo road trip route! The thinner west-looping line is my two-week September trip, while the thicker east-looping line is my Fall Foliage route.

My first trip started-off on a whim — I arrived home a little early from Ireland and had two weeks before my high school reunion, so I hopped in my trusty little Forester, opened the map, and said, “let’s just see where the road takes me!” The adventure took me to 10 states … up and out of Texas into the Midwest, across the beautiful open-spaces of Nebraska and Southern Wyoming, and into the gorgeous, prehistoric-looking lands of Utah and Colorado.

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My “fall foliage” trip was something I had wanted to do for years and was a big reason I didn’t take-off across the globe for months-on-end. Growing up in Texas, where Autumn consists of “brown and down,” I’d always dreamed of seeing the vibrant colors in New England — and my goodness, they did not disappoint! 36 days, 21 states, 7,845 miles, and endless landscapes of gorgeous color. From Austin to Albuquerque, across Route 66 to the Great Lakes, through fall colors of New England, down the rugged coastline of Maine to the crazy streets of NYC, across the Appalachian Mountains down the Blue Ridge Parkway, back to my home state of Texas! It was truly an epic road trip and my head is still swimming with visions of red, orange, and yellow leaves fluttering in the daylight.

And now, I’m in Austin for a few weeks—sorting through thousands of photos from the last few months, updating this blog (because I discovered it’s difficult to pull yourself away from the in-the-moment beauty to sit in front of a computer screen), and preparing for my next big adventure, which starts mid-December in Hawaii!

Also, a big thank you to everyone for following along on Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to check out my photography site for the high-quality, sellable images — ready and uploaded by Thanksgiving — and stay tuned for more content right here on Workday Wanderlust!

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Sorting through TONS of photos at my favorite Austin coffee shop, Spider House. Stay tuned for more great images!

 

The First 100 Days

The First 100 Days

Today marks 100 days since I quit my job to travel full time! Even though it’s only been a few short months, it feels like an entire lifetime by since I was stuck in the 8-5 grind, trying to decide how to make a bold move in life.

And now, I wake up every day — usually in a different city — thankful and amazed that I have the opportunity to live the life I always imagined. Each day is a completely different routine and there are definitely ups and downs along the way, but somehow it feels like the perfect fit. Many days I’m not sure where I’ll be sleeping that night, and most days my travel direction is based only on a gut feeling or desire to see something new — and while that may sound crazy to some people, it’s been absolutely liberating. So far, I’ve traveled to 4 countries, 21 American states, and driven more than 14 thousand miles by myself! Here’s a quick look at some of my favorite places and sights along the way.

 

Buffalo Round-Up in South Dakota

Buffalo Round-Up in South Dakota

It’s amazing how many quirky events take place throughout the U.S. on any given day. One of these unique events is the Buffalo Round-Up, held annually for more than 50 years in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota’s Custer State Park.

I had the pleasure of attending the Round-Up this fall with a group of friends from North Dakota. I wasn’t sure what to expect—being from Texas I was familiar with cowboys and longhorns and rodeos … but rounding up buffalo!? What in the world would that entail? Well, I definitely found out … and I discovered it was great!

It starts with a beautiful drive into Custer State Park during the magical season of Fall. Cowboys greet car-packed tourist with a smile and a tip of their hat. The event is free and open to the public and allows young and old to get up-close and personal with the historic beasts.

Thousands of people line the rolling hills with chairs, binoculars and cameras, waiting for the stampede to begin. The purpose of the event is to corral roaming bison for inoculation, sorting and branding, to help the dwindling population find its foothold again.

As the anticipation builds, children squeal in delight, adults move closer to the flimsy fence, and photographers secure their tripods. And then all of a sudden—there they are! Cresting the hill and traversing the valley—a stampede of hooves and dust, fur and horns. The electricity builds as people whoop and holler, cowboys crack their whips, and the ground vibrates with magnificent force—and for a moment, everyone is transported to another time when these beasts roamed wild and free on the open planes.

 

The Dogs Days of a Summer Road Trip

The Dogs Days of a Summer Road Trip

There’s nothing better than hitting the open road and embarking on a new adventure, especially during the summer months. This year, I decided to take a solo road trip to the Great American Southwest, and I brought my two dogs along for the ride. The reason for the trip was threefold: to visit family in New Mexico, test out a long drive with my new Subaru Forester, and to find out if my fuzzy travel companions could handle a 32-hour round trip.

With the help of my go-to travel resource RoadTrippers.com, I plotted four main photo stops along the way: Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch in Amarillo, plus Albuquerque and White Sands, New Mexico. I was a bit leery about a journey with the dogs in the midst of scorching summer temperatures, but I remained vigilant to my surroundings, scouted-out shade spots at each of the stops, carried plenty of water, and mapped out a few pet-friendly motels, just in case they were needed.

The adventure was amazing! The dogs and I made it through with a little luck, a reliable car, and the perseverance to follow a wanderlust spirit. Plus, the pups were perfect—they snuggled together in the backseat, reminded me to stop every few hours to stretch, and provided great safety and comfort to me as a solo traveler in desolate desert terrain.

And the best part of the whole trip—the unexpected explorations were just as great as the planned adventures.

So be bold and be brave, and use those vacation days for an adventure!

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Finding Adventure in Your Own Town

Finding Adventure in Your Own Town

With a 9-5 desk job, I try to jam-pack my weekends with road trips, airline flights, music festivals or activities with friends. But sometimes, a relaxing weekend at home is just what you need to recharge, recuperate, and unpack! I recently opted for the lazy weekend at home in Texas, and it was there that I found some of the best, and cutest, adventures waiting for me.

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For any good adventure, I grab my dogs and camera and hop in the car. Here the girls pose with local street art.
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Llamas! Just goes to show, you never know what you’ll find along the backroads of Texas.
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Wind in the hair and sun in the sky — the open road beckons.
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A quick stop in downtown Waco to pose with the landmarks.
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I love how nature finds a way to bloom, even in the smallest of spaces.
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“You can observe a lot by just watching.” Yogi Berra
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Beautiful backroad reminders of a long history and a fleeting journey.
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The kids are spent, time to head home. Until next time!

Taking the Road Less Traveled

Taking the Road Less Traveled

OverTheRiverCanoers webEarlier this year, I  bought my very first, brand new car — a Subaru Forester. Even before my­ first oil change, I  embarked on a solo road trip from Texas to Arkansas. I had a wonderful time traversing the Piney Woods of East Texas, the beautiful backroads of Southern Arkansas, and the many charted points along my journey—Hot Springs National Park, the City of Little Rock, and Crater of Diamonds State Park.

But the best part of my adventure was the two-hour drive down a 27 mile-long gravel road through Ouachita National Forest.

On the map, it was a thin, unmarked line running through the forest. By far, it was the most direct western route through Ouachita, giving me an opportunity to actually see the forest instead of going around it. So I took a left turn off of the main county road and started my expedition. Ten minutes into the drive, the smooth black pavement turned into thousands of tiny pebbles and small protruding boulders. I slowed down to 15 miles per hour. I could turn around and go back, or I can be daring and forge ahead.

I choose to be daring and try the road less traveled — because after all, I had a full tank of gas, sunshine in the sky, and my reliable new Forester to carry me through the precarious trail.

TWO and a half hours and 27 miles later—after navigating through peaks and valleys, unmarked forks in the road, low water crossings, and one very long, desolate and gorgeous mountain trail—I reached the other side. My little Subaru never failed me—it kept me safe, steady, and confident in my decision the entire way.

(This story was submitted to Subaru Drive magazine as part of their Summer Series)